The VITALS of the Hoof ...

Knowing the vitals of your horse is VITAL to preventative health as well as knowing if your horse is starting an issue. 

Particularly with the hooves. 

The vitals for a HEALTHY horse, in a general sense, are the TEMPERATURE at rest, the PULSE at rest, the RESPIRATION RATE at rest as well as the CAP REFILL TIME. 

Take these numbers once a day for several days in a row while your horse is AT REST to get his 'normal' readings. That way, if something comes up, you'll have his 'normal' numbers against which to compare what is going on at the time of suspected issue. 

The following chart shows the AVERAGE numbers for the AVERAGE 1000# horse at rest: 

Watch this video below to learn more about taking your horse's vital signs: 


When hooves start to go awry, it's important to know what the horse's vital signs are doing too ... and there are signs in the hooves that one needs to be aware of as well. Knowing your horse's regular, healthy vital signs in body AND in hooves can help when problems arise and perhaps even be able to thwart an oncoming disaster with the hooves. 

Barefoot horses may have normal, discernible pulse in the digital arteries while some may not have any discernible pulse at all. It's important to be familiar with what YOUR horse feels like on a regular, healthy, consistent basis. The pulse should feel the same in each pair of hooves. Deviations in the pulses usually indicate an imbalance of sorts that may signal further development of issues in the hooves. A horse that is developing "Developmental Laminitis" will not present with any outward clinical signs BUT ... may have an elevated or stronger digital pulse than normal. So if your horse is a bit 'owie', feel for the digital pulse and feel what's going on. One finds this pulse on either side of the fetlock as shown in this video: 

Do not take these changes lightly. An increase in the digital pulse, maybe coupled with 'off' behavior or slight change in movement, should be noticed and examined with appropriate care given depending on what is found upon examination. 

Issues that can be detected by paying close attention to these things include: 

Abscess brewing
Soft tissue injury
Thrush and/or Yeast developing
Development of "corns" or Keratinitis
Excess lactic acid in hooves from change in metabolics
Ringbone or Sidebone development with inflammation

Any "bounding" digital pulse in a COLD horse is indicative of compromised circulation through the hoof capsule; a visible digital pulse in a HOT horse is normal. So be sure to examine on your horse when he is at rest. 

A palpable, bounding digital pulse in a cold horse is ALWAYS cause for concern because it means something (usually, but not always, laminitis) is interfering with the flow of blood through the hoof capsule.

So, be aware. Be vigilant. Be educated. Be pro-active to determine why the pulse is greater than what is "normal" for your horse and don't ignore it. 


NOTE:  If you are enjoying these blog posts and are interested in further educating yourself about natural hoofcare, please check this out ...  ... Taking registrations NOW! 


Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:

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